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  • 16 June 2010
  • Posted By Shawn Amoei
  • 1 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

One Year Later: Are We Missing the Real Story?

Much attention has been given to the absence of large street protests on the anniversary of Iran’s disputed elections. This focus on street protests however, largely misses the point of the opposition movement today.

“A government that is scared of a corpse is a weak government,” Shirin Ebadi said, referring to the government’s decision to bar families of killed protesters from holding public funerals. Attacks on Mehdi Karroubi and  raids on the offices of Grand Ayatollahs Saane’i and Montazeri show the increasing desperation of Iran’s rulers. Every website managed by WordPress (the most popular blog hosting platform on the web) has been filtered since this past weekend in Iran (including this blog), and the Revolutionary Guards have even set up a “Facebook Espionage Division.”

All of this indicates that the Islamic Republic is a regime that has become afraid of its own shadow.  And this is the real story of the past year.

Pundits in the West have been quick to write obituaries for the Green Movement because it’s been unable to maintain the mass protests we last saw on Ashura. They ignore the fact that the regime has now become permanently on edge, and every crackdown against the opposition is a testimony to this.

One year on, the real story is that a pro-democracy movement that had long been simmering under the surface has finally been thrust into the spotlight.

Those who expected to see the toppling of the mullahs within a year failed to grasp the difficulty of such a task in an authoritarian state. Ayatollah Khamenei understands better than anyone the fragility of his authority, and his actions in recent weeks are the best indication of this.

Movements in pursuit of democracy and independence are long, protracted struggles. At times, the efforts of the people manifest themselves in public displays of strength. But even more important are the times in between where ordinary citizens retreat to their homes and places of worship to discuss the future of their country, and to engage in a spirited discourse about the future of their political system. And this has been the most fundamental achievement of the Green Movement: to craft an alternative narrative for Iran’s future that abandons the status quo.

Once that idea catches on in the minds of the people, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a reality.

Opposition leader Mir-Hossein Moussavi points out in the Green Movement charter issued on the anniversary:

“By rejecting the ruling establishment, by going back to their own homes and developing and expanding their social networks, strong and reliable relations between the various strata of the nation have been established. The social networks have created miracles in the area of informing [the nation] of political-social and cultural [developments]. All we need to do to understand this is to glance at their artistic productions, the amount of news and information that is exchanged, and the analyses that are going on in a completely democratic way. The Green Movement has created a powerful wave of debate and discussion concerning the critical problems among the people that is unique in our recent history.”

This debate — more than the number of people out on the streets or in the jails — is the true measure of the movement. Those who ignore this are missing the biggest story of the past year. “Just because there are less people on the streets does not mean that the movement has weakened, but that the criticism has taken a different form,” Shirin Ebadi said on Tuesday.

Joe Klein of Time Magazine said in reference to Iran on Sunday that “this is the greatest mismatch between a people and a government of any country in the world.” Very true. And that mismatch — not displays of strength on the street — is what will ultimately bring about the change Iranians have long been waiting for.

Sign the Petition

 

7,349 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

Sincerely,

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